Thursday, May 12, 2022

why, as a freelancer I'm paying to offset my carbon footprint

My recently published impact report on myself introduced something new for the first time in the 16 years I've been doing it - commitments and targets to revisit and report against in next years (which will be due sometime in April 2023: watch out for the #AAimpact23 tag!).

Around this time I've also been leading a bootcamp for businesses who were wanting to do more around their environmental impact. And whilst they all started that journey thinking it would be the carbon footprint of their products, they all started to realise that in some instances the way that they ran their businesses was having a biggest cost to the environment than what they were selling to their customers.

And these two things came together around one of the KPIs in my impact reporting framework (which has also been one of the first measures I started using all those years ago...) - trying to consider my impact on the natural environment by tracking how far I've been able to avoid needing to make journeys 'in physical person', and so avoiding adding pollution from not needing to burn the fossil fuels that go into the petrol tank of a car, and the diesel for a train.

I've reflected on one of the unexpected outcomes of this practices and indicator in a previous blog - but I've caught myself increasingly asking 'so what?', against this measure: what's the point of measuring something if we don't do anything with the number it gives us (other than stroking our ego and vanity)?

So to this end, I've decided to use this metric to help me calculate the carbon footprint I'm creating when I can't avoid having to make physical travel to a client to deliver workshops, facilitate meetings, and such like. And with that tonnage figure, I'm then going to offset the carbon I've created by purchasing 'carbon credits' that can be used to invest in different projects and initiatives to try and 'rebalance the scales'.

But even now - so what? I'm a sole trader, and it's unlikely that the carbon footprint I generate from business travel will amount to anything remotely approaching significance in the context of other business'; and by association, what I'll pay to rebalance it will seem paltry in a global scale. So why should I bother? It'll only cost me more as a business, and won't have any meaningful impact on the environment.

The point, dear reader, is this - if we don't each take a stand and start to model the behaviours that we want to try and encourage and challenge others over in seeing a better world come about, then what credibility do we have to bemoan the state of the world? If we don't 'walk the talk', why should anyone else? And ultimately, if we resign ourselves to the mindset of "I'm too small to make any meaningful difference", just remember what's possible when 1 person stands up - it can inspire others to do the same, and so sooner or later, change happens. 

So in hopes of encouraging and challenging others in this endeavour, I'm going to start adding a rider to my client invoices and proposals: "any physical travel involved in the delivery of this work has been carbon offset at my cost as part of my commitment to helping to sustain our world for ourselves and future generations."  

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